Small, diverse places

A great anecdote and accompanying insight into community life:

“I was speaking the other day to someone here who told me about an unlikely friendship he’d developed with an irascible older man, who has since died. My interlocutor told me that he couldn’t imagine another kind of place where a man like him could have made genuine friends with a man like the older one, given the radical difference, even hostility, between their views on life. What my interlocutor meant, I think, was that living in this small town compelled them both to look at each other and recognize their mutual humanity, despite their great differences, and to work through that. People who live in big cities like to think that it is they who live in a truly diverse context, but that is often only superficially true. You can, if you like, create a community for yourself in a big city in which you only ever have to deal intimately with people who are just like yourself. That’s just not possible in a small town, at least not in the small town where I live. You know everybody, and everybody knows you.”

Small towns aren’t always diverse in an obvious sense, but they can be extremely diverse (more diverse than cities, even) in the sense of diversity of thought and experience and relationships between neighbors.

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